January 21, 2021

Waterproof Vs. Water-Resistant Flooring: Vinyl Vs. Laminate

 

 

"Waterproof" and "water resistant" may sound almost the same, but the two terms define very different capabilities. Water can't penetrate waterproof flooring, period. From outer surface through the core of the material, waterproof flooring won't buckle, swell or warp in response to liquid or humidity. It's a more-expensive option than water-resistant flooring, which can handle small amounts of water for short periods of time.

Waterproof options

Submerge luxury vinyl flooring in water and it won't absorb a drop. In fact, where subfloors present water problems, waterproof vinyl offers the best option underfoot. This 100% synthetic material excels in basements, baths, kitchens and any room that includes a source of water or frequently sees liquids, especially ones that won't receive immediate attention. A waterproof floor remains undamaged in a flood, and even if the subfloor sustains damage, you can reinstall the flooring itself.

If your notion of vinyl flooring dates back to inexpensive apartment kitchens and baths, with fabric or felt-backed material that wasn't waterproof, you're in for a huge surprise. Today's luxury vinyl looks and performs nothing like the material of yesteryear. In fact, you may not be able to look at a set of samples and identify which one is vinyl. It can look like wood and feature a planked appearance like laminate, but it also can resemble stone and other surfaces. You'll find two basic types: waterproof core vinyl and engineered vinyl plank. It's also easier on the feet than tile.

Waterproof vinyl flooring often consists of four layers: The backing or base, often made of PVC-coated fiberglass; a solid vinyl core; a printed vinyl layer with photorealistic imagery that looks just like natural materials; and a topmost urethane wear layer that accepts embossing and protects from scratches and dents. This sandwich is easy to maintain, especially on products with a thick wear layer, and only needs occasional vacuuming and mopping.

The only downsides to waterproof vinyl? It's less resistant to dents than other materials, isn't puncture resistant and may fade in direct sunlight. Self-adhesive vinyl flooring tiles can peel up. And although vinyl can look like wood, that similarity ends at your fingertips and toes. To the touch and underfoot, vinyl is vinyl. Finally, if you sell your home, many buyers prefer true hardwood over other hard surfaces.

Water-resistant choices

Laminate first appeared in the 1970s as a synthetic alternative to wood. Among the most-popular water-resistant options, laminate flooring uses a backing layer topped with a resin-bonded wood-byproduct core, a printed design layer and a top-surface wear layer. With realistic 3D embossing to create surface textures, laminate makes a great stand-in for ceramic, stone or wood. Laminate tends to look more like the natural materials it mimics than vinyl does, although vinyl is catching up in the texture department.

That fiberboard core reacts poorly to water, which partially explains why most laminate flooring only offers water resistance. Properly installed, laminate can handle a puddle or two but not for long, and only if its planks have tight seams. Expose laminate to water, and the core softens, swells and won't regain its shape after it dries. Scratch resistance makes laminate a good choice in homes with pets, but its lack of waterproof performance rules it out in rooms with water sources and in the often-moist environment of basements.

Laminate can offer durable performance and easy-care maintenance, but it can delaminate as it ages or if it's exposed to too much water. Roll-on chemical seals on the seams or wax applications can help boost water resistance, but you'll have to replace water-damaged laminate.

Whether you choose waterproof or water-resistant flooring, be sure that you find the right options for your rooms and your lifestyle. The design experts at Kermans can help you sort through the choices and select the right ones for your lifestyle. Visit our showroom to see our wide selection and find the perfect fit for your home.


December 18, 2020

Radiant Heat: Let Your Floors Warm You Up

 


 

If you've lived with forced-air heat, you know that even in a home with an efficient system, your rooms can develop hot and cold spots. Parents with small children worry about little feet near hot registers in the floor – and no one wants to step into a cold bathroom floor while barefoot. The solution to all these problems can be a radiant heating system. Although radiant heat may not be ideal for every room in your home, it can make a big difference in your comfort if you incorporate it strategically.

How it works

Radiant heating supplies even warmth across a room with heat that rises up directly up from below your feet, warming you directly. With electric or water-based heating elements installed under the floor, these systems use no blowers or fans, and unlike baseboard heat, they cover the entire floor, not just its perimeter.

Electric systems

Like a large electric blanket, electric radiant heat uses a system of under-floor cables that warm up through electrical resistance. In rooms with irregular shapes or that require the cables to work around interruptions such as plumbing fixtures, installers typically roll out a continuous spool of cable that they arrange at 3" intervals across the floor.

In rectangular rooms with no interruptions, installers can use a fiberglass mat that carries wire mesh or loops of cable and includes a self-adhesive backing. A programmable thermostat controls the heating periods, so the system only runs when you need it.

These systems can be less expensive to install than other radiant heating options, but they can carry fairly high operating costs, depending on how much you pay for electricity.

Hydronic systems

Instead of electrical wires, hydronic radiant heating uses a system of pipes below the floor to carry water from a closed-loop system that uses a boiler as a heat source. The piping runs through concrete or a channeled plywood underlayment. Installation requires a licensed plumber, and installation costs typically exceed those for an electric system. However, once you install a hydronic system, its operating costs are low.

Advantages over forced-air heat

Forced-air systems distribute warmth from registers that blast hot air up into a room, heating the area adjacent to them more than areas farther away, which creates hot and cold spots. Some newer construction places forced-air vents in the ceiling, which works better for cooling than for heat, but both systems share ductwork, and these high-placed vents make inefficient heating sources.

Regardless of where you place HVAC registers, forced-air heat creates a greater temperature increase near the ceiling than closer to the floor, where people and pets look for comfort. While the system runs, the room stays hot – perhaps too much so – and after its blower shuts off, the room becomes cold again. Additionally, these systems can harbor and distribute dust and allergens every time their blowers activate. Because of all the moving parts involved, forced-air heat creates noise that can interfere with conversations or make it difficult to listen to entertainment.

Remodel vs. new construction

Radiant heating systems make for easier installations into new construction than in any other scenario, simply because of the amount of infrastructure involved in setting them up and the need to place wires or pipes under the floor. If you're planning an in-depth remodeling project and don't mind replacing the floor in one or more rooms, radiant heat can be an easy choice, especially in rooms in which you typically walk barefoot.

Flooring recommendations

Although you can install virtually any type of flooring over a radiant heating system, this technology lends itself best to floors that conduct heat, such as stone or ceramic tile. Hardwood flooring may shrink or warp in response to the heat source. Carpet, especially with thicker padding, tends to act as an insulator and hold heat in, which diminishes the system's ability to supply warmth into the room itself.

Radiant heating can boost your comfort, with even warmth throughout a room and under your feet. If you're interested in including this technology in your plans for new or remodeled construction, the design experts at Kermans can steer you toward flooring choices that work ideally with radiant systems. Drop by our showroom or schedule a complimentary consultation to see new flooring options for your project.

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